England start their preparations for the T20 World Cup later this year with a five-match series against the West Indies in Barbados, just days after their Ashes humiliation was complete.
With several of England’s all-format players omitted after their exploits in Australia, this represents an opportunity for several batters and bowlers on the periphery to make a compelling case.
Here, the PA news agency considers some of the issues ahead of five contests spread over nine days.
England are still reeling from their kicking Down Under, the inquest well under way after a dismal campaign, so it is little surprise the build-up to this tour has gone under the radar. A relentless fixture list means Saturday’s opener comes just six days after the Test side’s last humiliation in a 4-0 drubbing. Jason Roy, Liam Livingstone, Chris Jordan, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, along with captain Eoin Morgan, are the T20 regulars who have made the trip to the Caribbean while Sam Billings has arrived late after answering England’s SOS for the Hobart Test.
With Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow returning to the UK after a few months on the road, England will field a new-look top four with Roy the only certainty. Roy is back from a calf tear that ended his T20 World Cup early and warmed up for this series with a buccaneering 115 from 47 balls against an overwhelmed Barbados XI. Batter Harry Brook and left-arm seamers George Garton and David Payne are the uncapped players in the squad while the likes of Phil Salt, Saqib Mahmood and Tom Banton should get their chance after being on the fringes of squads.
While this series might be unable to deflect attention away from what happened in Australia, England would be unwise to let these five matches, all being staged in Bridgetown, merely pass them by. Two months have passed since the last T20 World Cup, when England were eliminated in the semi-finals, but they will have another attempt at history in Australia in the autumn. No side has ever held both white-ball World Cups simultaneously and England, 50-over champions, should be looking to learn some important lessons about their players between now and then.
World Cup-winning captain Morgan was quite punchy when assessing whether Test cricket had taken a back seat to the limited-overs formats, telling talkSPORT: “People that use that as an excuse don’t watch cricket. Test match cricket has always been the priority – it’s the format for our elite players.” It is difficult to argue against Morgan’s reasoning as he has regularly been deprived of a full-strength side since the start of the pandemic. Only in South Africa in early 2020 and India last year has Morgan had every available player at his disposal.
Jofra Archer, just rolling his arm over. The gentlest of gentle bowling - still got it pic.twitter.com/15aKbH081E— David Charlesworth (@charlie_4444) January 21, 2022
It has been 10 months since Jofra Archer last played an international match, with the World Cup winner undergoing a second operation on a troublesome elbow that has kept him on the sidelines for much of the past two years. He returned to his family home in his native Barbados to convalesce but has been training with England this week, doing some light drills and catching up with team-mates. He was even spotted rolling his arm over in the nets on Friday although England have been at pains to convey there is no timescale on any sort of playing return.